Administration of estates, wills, and trusts can be overwhelming to the people involved, and not everyone may be happy with the shares and distributions. When that happens, heirs, beneficiaries, personal representatives, administrators, creditors, and other parties look to the DeLuca Law Firm to pursue or protect their interests.
Estate and trust disputes can be deeply personal, often dividing siblings, children, grandchildren, and other family members, and sometimes pitting them against third parties such as financial institutions, creditors, and investment advisors. No matter the stake in or obligation to the estate, we guide clients through the litigation process and help them move forward.
We have successfully resolved matters including:
Probate administration or “probating” an estate is a court-supervised process in which the decedent’s debts to creditors are settled, and any remaining property is passed to beneficiaries (those named in a will) or heirs (family members not named in a will).
Problems can occur when the property in the estate is substantial, there are disagreements between creditors, business assets must be managed or transferred, or heirs are missing. In other instances, interested parties question the validity of a will or trust because of how it is structured, funded, managed, or the mental state and legal capacity of the settlor (usually the decedent).
A will contest is a probate court proceeding to challenge or establish the validity of a will. In these actions, an interested party (such as an heir or beneficiary) can seek to set aside the will based on the signer’s incompetency or lack of capacity, undue influence and coercion, ambiguous or disputed language in the document, or improper execution.
When a trust is contested, the probate court is asked to enforce or defend the rights of a trust beneficiary. Similar to will contests, trust contests can arise for a wide variety of reasons, including questions about the signer’s competence, whether the signer was subjected to any undue influence, or if a party was left out of the trust and it is unclear if the omission was made purposefully or by error. An interested party can initiate a trust contest action when they believe they have not received a proper share of the estate, if they suspect a fraud may have occurred, or when amendments cause confusion or cast doubt.
In either a will or trust contest case, we examine all of the documents and amendments, ascertain the facts surrounding the signing and execution, and ensure the client’s interests and rights are enforced.
Sometimes, a testator (a person with a will) or settlor (a person with a trust) can be made to sign estate documents under pressure from another, which can form the grounds for a will or trust contest. To establish undue influence, the party making the claim must show that a third-party:
Influence is considered “undue” if the decedent’s free will was overpowered, and he or she acted in accordance with another person’s desires. This can occur when the testator or settlor:
Regrettably, personal representatives, executors, trustees, or trust administrators sometimes abuse or neglect their responsibilities, giving rise to a breach of fiduciary lawsuit. Such claims may involve:
We have successfully prosecuted breach of fiduciary actions, thoroughly investigating misconduct and improper behavior to hold the fiduciary liable. We have been equally successful in defending fiduciaries against breach of duty claims by establishing that the allegations have no basis in fact or law.
The death of a loved one can be difficult. If you have been named in a decedent’s will or trust, were omitted from a decedent’s estate plan, or have been designated as a personal representative or in another fiduciary role, you need to know your rights and responsibilities.
Whether you need to pursue or defend a claim, the law can be complicated, so consulting an experienced trust litigation law firm is a good first step. We have significant experience handling will and trust contests and other probate disputes, and we can help you assess the validity of your particular circumstances. Contact us today for a free consultation.
We obtained a $3.5 million-dollar summary judgment in favor of a national bank in a complex breach of contract claim.
We secured both summary judgments and defense verdicts on behalf of a major automobile manufacturer in an automobile breach of warranty and product defect lawsuit.
We successfully invalidated an amended trust agreement and obtained a six-figure settlement on behalf of trust beneficiaries who were cut out of the settlor’s original trust.
We obtained summary judgment to dismiss employment discrimination claims against our client, a luxury automobile dealership.
We obtained summary judgment to defeat a products liability claim involving a commercial vehicle fire.
We successfully defended the financial subsidiary of a major automobile manufacturer in a complex $20 million breach of contract claim brought by a minority supplier.
We successfully defended a major commercial truck and engine manufacturer in numerous breach of warranty/product defect claims.